Alaska: Land of the midnight sun

We’re here in Alaska in July, which is awesome, the weather is fabulous and we’ve really lucked out with sun, or more accurately, no rain for all of our excursions.  Then, there’s this whole constant sunshine thing.  Take today for instance, the sunset is at 11:51 and it rises at 4:12.  Recall, that doesn’t mean it gets, you know, “dark” after the sun sets, it’s pretty much stays light-ish all the time either directly or indirectly.

Now, consider our rental RV we call home for our time here which is clearly not designed to handle constant light and support adequate sleeping or interior darkness.  Light leaks through EVERYWHERE.  A quick trip to Fred Meyer along they way for some black plastic garbage bags and some masking tape.  Now we have what really feels like some kind of mobile meth lab with all the windows, doors, ceiling vents covered over with bags and tape.  I will say that it makes a huge difference in our ability to sleep for any duration, so I’ll take the ghetto look and feel in trade for sleep any day.

I don’t know that we’ve been up for any chance of seeing the northern lights… not sure how dark it needs to be to actually see them at this point, maybe we’ll check it tomorrow night when we are more in the interior and perhaps in better weather.

While we are up and around, we have seen some amazing sites, below is “classic Alaska” wit the mountains, rivers and forest.  Views like this are all around us all the time, it’s truly beautiful!

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Alaska: Seward

As the kids have already posted, we made it here and I managed to make a friend along the way on the plane that provided us not only with great snacks on the plane, but about 2 grocery bags full of supplies (chips, candy, drinks, fruit, etc) all from the plane for us to start our trip.  It always pays to be nice to people, sometimes it pays you back more than you’d ever expect!

First big adventure day was in Seward where we took a boat cruise to see the Kenai Fjords, lots of wildlife on the trip (see Elizabeth’s post) and we all enjoyed the trip very much.  Some good relaxing going on at the campground tonight, grilled some steaks and had what felt like a home-cooked meal from the RV.

Tomorrow we head back north through Anchorage on our way to Denali!

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Last Day

Starting to wrap things up here and get ready to head back!  Very much ready to be home!

I had dinner with Aaron last night at a very nice Chinese restaurant.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve never been to a restaurant where there was a line-item for over $900 before and no, we didn’t get the Emperor’s Abalone platter, or whatever it was called.  The pork, chicken, duck and fried rice we did have were exceptional.  We wandered around Chinatown for a bit afterwards and did some shopping and had a few drinks in Clark Quay (which is basically just a collection of about 50-60 bars and restaurants).  Not sure why a country that is essentially in the heart of Asia has a Chinatown, but it’s there.

The Chinese New Year just kicked off and it’s the year of the goat, as can be seen all over the place here in Singapore.  Swung by my last hotel on the way to the Art & Science Museum and found a store that Bob might appreciate!

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The Art & Science Museum had a very nice exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci that I spent a couple hours at.  Very interesting to learn about how diverse of a person he was and how many different areas of knowledge he spent time and effort exploring.

After the museum I headed off to the Singapore Zoo.  Overall, the zoo was very nice, I saw the White Tigers which is kind of the highlight overall, they also had an elephant show that I saw too.  Lots of other critters great and small there.  I was originally going to go to the Night Safari there, but it started raining just when I was wrapping up with the zoo and figured I’d head back to town and start to gather my things together for the trip home.

The river otters were super cute, they were waiting for feeding time and they kept moving back an forth in a little group trying to figure out who was going to feed them.  

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Other than that, I’m checked in for my flights tomorrow, going to pack up and get a good nights sleep for my early morning departure.  See you all soon!

Love you!

 

Pulau Ubin

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So, it turns out that yesterday we weren’t actually done with work.  After checking out and switching hotels, Aaron and I went back to the office to listen in on some meetings and chat with our co-workers in the Singapore office.  For dinner last night we went out for Sushi with Benn who was the guy that coordinated our trip to Australia last year and it was good to hang out with him and catch up a bit.

With work now officially done, Aaron and I found a place to go:  a small island in the Strait of Johore (the waterway between Malaysia and Singapore).  We were looking to get out of the city and away from the shopping, tall buildings and streets and into something more off the beaten path.  We took a taxi to the eastern edge of Singapore and took a water ferry from there to Pulau Ubin.  After a quick 15 minute boat-ride, we were definitely someplace different from the big city.

Aaron (pictured above) and I rented mountain bikes to tour around on the island and explore.

We saw some wildlife along the way with a wild boar and some sort of giant tadpole thing, oh, and a spider that was simply enormous (Aaron’s hand is just behind the web.  We saw a few monkeys in the forest, but didn’t get any good pictures of them.

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The scenery was very nice and we were in the shade for most of the time, but I did manage to get myself a little sunburn along the way.  It’s a far easier adventure when you simply know that there is no air conditioning on the island and you’re just going to get hot and sweaty until you get back to the hotel.  We were definitely that and stopped for some more water and ice-cream bars for lunch.  Yes kids, I had ice-cream for lunch!  🙂

We walked on a boardwalk among the mangrove trees along the shore and we were at high-tide, so at low-tide the water would be about 10 feet lower than what we saw.  And don’t feed the animals…

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The view from an observation tower was really nice, you could see all around the forest out into the bay looking over Singapore:

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The observation deck said it held 20 people maximum, but that was a bit of a stretch, there were easily 30 people up there.  Apparently the majority of the Asians there were very scared of heights as they were huddled in the middle trying to take pictures quickly.  If only we could have done the math on the sign to figure out how many of us could have been up there.  And a quick selfie to prove I was there:

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We stopped for a drink on the way back to the water ferry, and I forgot to mention, the people running the bike rental place we stopped at were very impressed with my height and we took pictures when we first rented as well as when we returned them, with the 5 or so people running the store in various combinations.  For being nice about it, they gave Aaron and I a free drink on our way to the ferry.

When we got back to Singapore we strolled around an open-air market and I found what could have been the absolute best strawberry smoothie on the planet.  No seriously, it was really good, I wasn’t just really, hot, sweaty and sun-burned.  Last shot is looking up at the interior of my current hotel.  I’m pretty good with heights, but looking over the edge from my 13th floor is just a little creepy.  (The picture is looking up from the 13th floor to the top, the elevator is the round tube on the right and there were two crosswalks up around the 20th floor.

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Dinner tonight is planned for some Chinese.  Took a super long shower to get cleaned up after our time outside and that was really refreshing!

Tomorrow, Aaron heads back to Seattle and I have plans to go to the Zoo, Night Safari tour and go to a couple museums; the Art & Science museum has a display running right now on DaVinci which I think will be fun to check out.

Love you all and miss you!

 

 

Work Done

Wrapped up my last day of meetings today.  Got to hear presentations from all the different regions in Asia about how they are selling and working with our products.  The plus side is that they all have a direct and immediate interest in the area I’m working on, so that was good!

Made it back to the hotel and walked around the “Tree Walk” this evening with a friend of mine (Mark, he’s a nice guy with a good name).  You can see the walkway looping around through the trees, but we missed going up there by 15 inures before it closed.  They they did the light and sound show where the trees were all lit up and it was pretty cool!

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On the way back, we caught another really nice shot of the hotel.  It’s pretty much the oddest looking thing on the Singapore skyline:

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Did a bunch more shopping today, but still haven’t found anything fun.  Lots of the stores are just the same as in the US, just the super-expensive versions.  I’m hoping to find some cool Singapore stuff later this weekend in my adventures.

 

Singapore

Finally had a chance to work on this some more and share some pictures!  The below are Singapore harbor from my hotel room, the morning and evening.  There are hundreds of cargo ships and large fishing boats just anchored in the harbor.  Near as we can tell, they haven’t moved since we got here, but there are tons of them out there.  The triple tower building with the sky-bridge / canoe looking thing on top is my hotel.  The top floor has a couple restaurants on it and a pool (bottom left picture).  The Singapore skyline at night is pretty neat too and finally, our fish head guy that was served with our dinner tonight.  I did not try the fish, but the authentic Cantonese (Chinese) was pretty good!

Singapore is hot.  We’re at 1.7 degrees North from the equator, so, pretty much, at the equator.  The heat isn’t so bad, but the humidity is a killer.  Lots of effort is spent avoiding going outside.  They have a similar system to Minneapolis where everything is skyway connected, except here, it’s all below ground and there are shops everywhere, so it’s like one continuous underground mall that connects the buildings, subway system and other stuff.  You can’t go everywhere underground, but you can certainly do a lot!

The hotel is really a unique feature on the skyline, it’s literally 3 towers with what looks like a big canoe on top.  The hotel is connected to a very exclusive mall, lots of brands I’ve never heard of and the ones I have are really expensive.  I don’t know that I’ve been to a place that has a dedicated Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini apparel stores before.

Speaking of cars, owning a car in Singapore is very expensive!  The government taxes cars very heavily to prevent lots of people from having cars.  Part of that is they only release a certain number of license plates every year and then you have to bid on them to get them, the cheapest ones I saw were around 3-4k, the old ones (40+ years old) were selling for over 200K (to get a number like “EK 9 J”) where the lower numbers show a higher status.

Today was first day of meetings and my presentation went well, good feedback all around.  

I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do on my free days this weekend, but I’ll sort it out tomorrow or Thursday.

Miss you guys!

 

Singapore Harbor at morning & night.

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Hotel & skyline at night.

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Pool view over the skyline and fish head from dinner.

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Tokyo

Haven’t posted anything in a while, will have to get back in the groove here for this quick trip to Asia.

The flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo was entirely uneventful.  Spent a fair amount of time working and made good progress on one project.  Watched a couple movies with the idea that I’d take a nap on the next flight to Singapore and then sleep when I get there as it will be just after midnight or so.

Saw a couple e-mails from my co-workers already in Singapore, so I know I’ll have company when I arrive.

Hanging out at the Delta Sky Club in the Tokyo airport.  It’s raining and gross outside, so there isn’t a lot of the countryside to see and plus it’s 1:45am body time, so I’m a little groggy.

Was fun to get an e-mail back from the E already.

Miss you guys!  I’ll write more tomorrow and try to call either morning or evening tomorrow, we’ll see how things are going.

Love you!

Difficult to describe…

So, we decided to spend our last day in Sydney (and Australia, New Zealand and our whole trip) by wandering around the city, hitting some of our favorite spots by the Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Circular Quay and all the streets we travelled on so many times in our first week.  Not sure if it was because Sydney was the first  place we stopped at or if it’s just something about the city that feels very warm and welcoming.  It’s a beautiful city, truly.

To close out our adventure, I found a teppanyaki (like Benihana) restaurant to go to.  We were a little skeptical going in as the restaurant was basically empty when we got there; we increased the number of patrons from 2 to 7 with our arrival.  Here we sit at the table, after the other nice folks left…

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Language was a little rough with our waiter, who turned out to be our chef as well… again, causing a little concern about the overall experience as in all of our travels, the person taking your order, isn’t the person that prepares the food.  Salad was good, soup was good and appreciated by the kids too.  Had some appetizers as well and that was all relatively good, nothing out of the ordinary happened there.

Then, things started to get a little weird.  Our first task as active participants at dinner was to catch a raw egg in a bowl given to us by our chef, I had visions of it splattering all over one or all of us.  He tossed the egg in the air off the cooking table and we needed to catch it in our bowl; we managed to catch all of them with lots of cheering!  Next up, we had to catch a small chunk of fried egg in our mouth that our chef would toss in from the middle of the table.  Took us each between 1 and 5 tries to get success, but we all did it.

Then… it happened…

He asked us if we wanted to play the “Special Game” and of course we said Yes!  He gave the kids each a small bowl and asked them to hold it in front of them.  We spent time clarifying whether they were to catch something and though some more language difficulty, we determined the word he used was “shield”.  For whatever reason, this did not raise any mental alarms.  Next, he rapid fire shot chunks of fried egg at the kids and they needed to use the bowls to deflect the shots.  The first one hit Mark in the head, Sam was busy looking at Mark (in shock) when she got hit in the face too, E had enough warning to dodge or block and then he was back to Mark again and they had this routine figured out now, but I think they only actually blocked 2 shots, the other 10-12 hit them in the face or chest or something.  OMG, it was hysterical!!!  🙂

One of the most entertaining meals I think we’ve ever had!  To close out, he wrote us a nice note on the table with salt.  The impressive part was it was all upside down from his perspective.

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Now, we’re back at the hotel, getting packed up and we are set for a day of air travel ahead of us tomorrow.  We are wrapping up a fantastic trip and we are very grateful to have had this opportunity to travel in this part of the world for so long.  Thanks to everyone who helped us along the way!

Scott August 5, 2014 1 Comment Permalink

Pacific Shore

Today offered some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve encountered on the trip so far!  This photo is from Phillip Island (SE of Melbourne) and this particular bay is a World Surf Heritage site; not sure what that means, because we didn’t see any surfers, but we did see plenty of waves.  We hiked for a couple miles along the coast out to the outcropping pictured below.  We were basically on our own the whole time and we aren’t quite sure why there weren’t more people taking all this in, it must be beautiful in lots of places around here.

We put in a long day driving today, about 5 hours in total with both Teresa and I splitting the time behind the wheel.  So far we haven’t had any major mishaps with the car, other than some unnecessary use of wipers when our intention was to use the turn signal.  🙂

Tomorrow will be a leisurely drive along the Great Ocean Road and more lookouts and sightseeing along the way.  Two more days around Victoria before we head to Cairns!

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Scott July 28, 2014 1 Comment Permalink

Working…

I figured it would be at least a little bit necessary to write about the work I’m doing over here.  After all, that is key reason this whole thing came together, it was a work trip that got exploded out into a monster family vacation.  🙂

The sales teams in all the cities I’ve been to have been very diligent in keeping me busy with customers and our partners/resellers.  Whether doing simple overviews of our solutions for them or doing deeper technical dives with our more advanced customers, every meeting is a micro-adventure in itself.  I’ve mostly met with banks of various flavors, with some hospitals, broadcast (think DirecTV/Dish), and various government agencies (tax, education, corrections) thrown in for good measure.

There are definitely some different trends and emphasis in this region compared to the U.S.  One that has caught me a bit off-guard is the clear direction of banks to move things (in some cases, everything) into the “cloud”… aka Amazon Web Services.  Banks in the U.S. will likely be the very last of the big cloud adopters due to perceived privacy & security concerns with it.  I met with a bank today who has a corporate goal of putting everything in AWS.  Weird.

Another oddity is that many customers have zero budget to buy our equipment.  If this sounds like a challenge, you would be correct.  The saving-grace is that, apparently, while they don’t have any money for capital expenditures, they have a budget for OpEx and can consume our product through managed services from our resellers.  So, in many cases, when we’re pitching new solutions and features, we really are selling the idea to the customer and the reality to the partner so they actually decide to resell the service.  Again, this is pretty much opposite from how things work in the U.S.

All that said, while we haven’t proven whether the toilets flush in the opposite direction (they have a more aggressive system without opportunity to monitor water-spin-direction) they definitely do things a bit differently here down-under.  Having the exposure to this region (and hopefully others in the future) has definitely been beneficial for me to understand how customers use our product and what they are looking for.

So, all that said, the work time has been fun and engaging for me as much as the exploring off-hours with the rest of the fam!